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Bone Density

We humans often take our bones for granted, but bones are actually living, growing tissue. Our bones are made up of connective tissue, one of the four basic types of human tissue. In addition to giving our bodies structure and protection, bones make red blood cells, which supply proteins and oxygen to tissues, and they make white blood cells, which help fight infection.

Although human bones stop growing in our 20’s, we replace and repair bone throughout our lifetimes. When bone replacement can’t keep up with bone loss, our bones become abnormally weak and more likely to break – a condition referred to as osteoporosis.

It’s estimated that more than 40 million Americans are at increased risk of osteoporosis—including more than 12 million men—yet it is one of the most preventable and treatable diseases. Osteoporosis can be diagnosed through a simple test called the bone density test, which is offered at most imaging centers and hospitals, including Northern Arizona Radiology in Flagstaff.

“While it’s true that women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, the lack of awareness of the condition in men often leads to under-diagnosis and under-treatment,” said Northern Arizona Radiologist Stephen V. Ward, M.D. “The good news is that osteoporosis can be prevented and treated. Testing for low bone density is a simple, cost-effective test for those at increased risk of the disease.”

Bone mineral density testing can tell patients if they have low bone density or osteoporosis before outward signs appear. This allows doctors to treat the condition, prevent further loss and even increase bone mass in some cases.

Who should get tested?

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends a bone mineral density test for women age 65 and older, those age 60 to 64 with risk factors for osteoporosis, and women over 45 who have broken any bones. Testing is recommend for men age 50 to 69 with one or more risk factors for osteoporosis, and for men age 70 or older, even without any risk factors.

Osteoporsis risk factors include: female gender; age; body type; ethnicity (Caucasian and Asian women are at highest risk); and family history. Controllable risk factors include: an inactive lifestyle; smoking; excessive alcohol intake; use of certain medications; abnormal hormone levels; and low levels of Vitamin D.

Through proper nutrition, exercise, hormone therapy and certain prescription medications, Dr. Ward said low bone density and osteoporosis can be prevented. If osteoporosis has already been diagnosed, it can be successfully treated and managed.

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